Intense Kids: The Essential First Step in Responding to Big Emotions

by | Apr 20, 2020 | Anger & Outbursts, Parenting

If you have an intense child (or know someone who does), watch this short video, produced in partnership with Connected Families. You’ll learn what might be going on with your intense child that is driving his/her difficulty. And then make sure to read the story below about a family who put these insights into practice.​

Rich and Paige came for coaching because they were very concerned and frustrated by one of their kids who was particularly intense. In their first session, most parents want to immediately brainstorm responses to try to stop the behaviour. It’s typical in our coaching process, however, to start with the essential first step: looking below the surface to discover what was going on in parents’ hearts. We discovered that when their son Leo had one of his meltdowns, or expressed big dramatic emotions, his parents’ thoughts revealed their frustration and judgments. As we talked, they were grieved that through both their verbal and non-verbal communication, Leo was most surely feeling the message, “Leo is a problem.” As we talked, we pinpointed thought processes such as: 

  • Seriously, where does this come from? I shouldn’t have to deal with this, he’s just being ridiculous. 
  • When he acts like that, it drains my desire to be affectionate with him. 
  • He’s so different from me. I don’t relate to this kind of behaviour at all. 
  • He’s just trying to get our attention. 

We began to talk about general reasons why intense kids have big reactions, which are covered in the video above, as well as specific reasons that Leo might be struggling. We looked thoroughly at Rich and Paige’s beliefs about their son, and their level of heart connection with him. 

In their second coaching session, Rich and Paige were much more peaceful. They talked about their growing compassion for their son, their increased joy and connection with him, and how much better he was doing. Their beliefs were now:

  • My son needs my help to learn to handle his difficult emotions. 
  • I really want to do what I can to guide him away from his “black sheep of the family” identity. 
  • I so value the increased connection and joy in our relationship as I’ve prioritized that, and I think it’s really meeting a deep need for him.
  • It’s wonderful to see him more encouraged about himself. 

The next time your intense child has big emotions, ask the Holy Spirit for insight into your thoughts, beliefs, and possible judgments. Rather than trying to figure out what to do in these situations to stop the behaviour, consider what’s really going on in your child, and how you can meet their deeper needs.

“Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24

Used with permission. Originally published at connectedfamilies.org.